From the editors of The Automatic Earth, a very pertinent quote from one of the great American authors of our time, Joe Bageant. Sadly, Joe passed away earlier this year, but waste no time checking out his essays online at joebageant.com -- or better yet, go buy one of his books!
"The US postwar rural out-migration was initiated - though in a different way and for different reasons - by the same corporate-financial powers that caused the earlier tragic migration of workers in search of work during the Great Depression. Endless footage of the Dust Bowl has subsequently made it synonymous in American minds with the Great Depression, even though they were two separate events.
The Dust Bowl affected only a portion of the country. But, according to the average American's grasp of the history - to the degree that we have one at all - those ten million Americans "riding thumb" and hopping rail cars all came out of Oklahoma, which had a population of about two million at the time.
We never see documentaries or movies about the corporate malfeasance of unregulated stock markets and commodity speculation, banking and other enterprises of the already rich that ruined more rural Americans and farmers than the Dust Bowl did. But we do see and read about those very few urban investors who jumped off the twentieth floor during the 1929 stock crash.
The recklessness of the financial elites and the layer of speculators that cushioned them blew away millions of Americans - folks who never saw a stock certificate in their lives. As Depression-era migrant Grace Pample told me in one of the most poetic summaries I have ever heard from the mouth of one of my own people,
"It was the big-money men, it was them who made us to rise and blow across the land like the Russian thistle, like gypsies in the dust""